Friday, 19 February 2010

An immigrant ‘VIP Club’? I don’t think so.

The Daily Express had an ‘exclusive’ yesterday about the way immigrants are having ‘fun and games as they wait to get into Britain’. Apparently, French charities have converted a warehouse to provide sheltered accommodation for immigrants at Calais. The report describes the centre like it was some kind of holiday resort, where guests ‘are being treated like VIP’s’. Read past the headlines though and you find the centre was actually ‘closed down 12 days previously after Calais authorities deemed it unfit for public use’. Some resort.
Read a bit further and you find that the notorious CRS riot squads cleared the centre of the remaining charity workers and users, with the aid of their batons and riot shields. Not exactly my idea of a holiday. In other words, the Express story is in substance a non-story. Just another way to feed hatred and suspicion about immigrants. As if we don’t have enough already. And even if there did exist for a brief period of time a well resourced centre for those in need of shelter, so what? Surely, that is a humane thing to do for the many men, women and children gathered in Calais in the desperate hope of starting a new life?

Of course it is, but you won’t find many politicians saying so. Instead, most are too happy to pander to ugly demonizations of asylum seekers and immigrants. And for many, in doing so, anything goes. In the recent past Birmingham’s Cabinet Member for Housing brought shame on himself and the council when he described asylum seekers on the housing waiting list as ‘scum’. Rather than inform the public about the reality of migration, and facilitate a sensible discussion on policy, much of the media presentation fuels racism and plays into the hands of the British National Party. If the media won’t show responsibility in their coverage of this issue, it is beholden on politicians to do so.